How Iman Haggag transformed the Egyptian restaurant Pots into a vegetarian mainstay

3 many years ago, Iman Haggag was a housewife with two young children and a seemingly considerably-flung desire. Currently, she is a burgeoning entrepreneur with her cafe Pots, which specializes in vegetarian dishes and Egyptian street meals, close to the intersection of Rainbow and Oakey boulevards.

“Before Pots, I never ever labored a day in my everyday living,” says Haggag, who deserted her privileged existence in Egypt in search of a alter. Working with her very own savings and will to realize success, she is now the co-operator and brainchild at the rear of the rapidly-informal Pots — which she calls the city’s very first Egyptian eatery — that celebrates its third anniversary this February. The modest area in a westside strip shopping mall appeals to vegans looking for a distinct twist on rice, beans, and vegetables.

Haggag acknowledges her serendipitous route in her enterprise and individual life. Although she graduated with levels in company administration and accounting from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, she did not have preceding realistic enterprise practical experience, nor did she know how to cook. “When I made the decision to transfer to the U.S., I was 23,” claims the not likely entrepreneur. “I hated the Egyptian government.”

In research of transform, but with no very clear prepare, Haggag manufactured her way to Las Vegas to go on a blind date with a guy who was a close friend of a mate. “When I achieved him, it was fireworks,” she claims. Haggag stayed in Vegas for a week and then remaining for Arizona to continue to be with her uncle. The romance blossomed as the male traveled back again and forth to Arizona to see her. They soon married, and Las Vegas grew to become her new dwelling.

A green interior of a restaurant

The interior of Pots
Louiie Victa

The mother of two juggles the tasks of the cafe and family lifestyle with the assistance of her youthful sister, Ayat Kahlil, co-proprietor of Pots. Haggag emphasizes that the business would not have occurred experienced her sister not urged her to consider action. Kahlil followed Haggag to Las Vegas for her small children to go to university, and in just a couple months turned restless for a little something to do.

“The restaurant was my notion, but it was my sister’s thrust that built it come about,” Haggag states. “Ayat was the motor driving this location.” In February 2018, they opened their doorways. Little did they know that they experienced transformed the previous Pizza Hut locale into a quickly-to-be vegetarian mainstay.

Right before tackling any type of entrepreneurial venture, Haggag required to satisfy her wish to journey. So, at the end of 2014, she dropped her kids off in Egypt to keep with her loved ones and established off on a solo everyday living-switching journey around the earth. For a yr, she explored the numerous cultures and cuisines of Africa and Europe. “It was a reset button for me,” she claims. “That was the program. Get married, have children when I am younger, journey, and then begin a business.” While she was away, she honed her dream to open up the cafe.

Haggag clarifies that she wished to open a vegan location due to the fact the bulk of Egyptian avenue meals — mainly comprised of a lot less expensive elements this kind of as beans and rice — is normally meat and dairy-free of charge. Egypt’s North African site and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe also greatly influences Egyptian cuisine. At a brief look, just one could very easily blunder the Pots menu for Mediterranean considering the fact that it consists of objects such as hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel. As she traveled during the location, Haggag pointed out the similarities. “We have a mix of cuisines that I never ever realized ended up a blend in the to start with spot,” she says.

A person of the factors that would make Haggag’s assurance so remarkable is the fact that her recipes are largely self-taught out of necessity to feed her spouse and her family, considering the fact that taking in out is not the norm in Egyptian lifestyle. While she deciphered recipes with her mom in Arabic, she was simultaneously mastering how to converse English. Haggag laughs out loud as she displays back again on her early times. “In the commencing, it was a wrestle to know even the names. ‘What the hell is a cilantro? Or parsley?’ I had to understand how to translate,” she shakes her head with a smile. “There was no Google or YouTube. I didn’t even know what to lookup for. I experienced to get the job done with my palate.”

The true check of her skills came when her moms and dads arrived to stop by. She organized a large feast (“that’s how we do it in Egypt”) and received the validation and encouragement that she necessary to additional acquire her capability.

From her initial twist on the Egyptian road food items staple koshari — a dish traditionally built with rice and lentils — to her cauliflower shawarma, a recipe she whipped up two days just before their grand opening, Haggag’s food stuff has drawn lines of hungry vegans, and it is obvious that the neighborhood has embraced her ambition and delicacies. And she has embraced them back again. In the course of the COVID-19 lockdown, Pots served up to 50 free nutritious foods a day to the neighborhood in require. Like many little business entrepreneurs, Haggag experienced to lay off the greater part of her personnel, leaving only herself, her sister, and a single personnel. In its place of closing down completely, Haggag felt it was her obligation to remain open up. Despite their very small workforce, she recollects, “My sister and I were carrying out meal deliveries, especially to the elderly.”

Her commitment to the local community prolonged to the new presidential elections, when Pots presented a free cauliflower or falafel sandwich to those with an “I Voted” sticker, and Haggag personally went to very long voting traces to feed about 100 citizens — no issue who they have been affiliated with — who were being awaiting their turn to solid their votes.

Considering that the area overall economy reopened, Haggag and Kahlil work tirelessly to keep afloat, and they have been in a position to seek the services of a few team customers back again. Pre-pandemic, the Pots dining home seated 22 diners, but to comply with the latest mandates, it can now only accommodate 25 % of that. To function with restricted personnel, the sisters break up their times in 50 % and just take turns. With public schools closed, Kahlil generally works the lunch shift all through the day, and Haggag house educational facilities equally sets of small children. Afterwards in the day, the sisters switch destinations, with Haggag at the cafe for evening meal and her sister at property to treatment for the young children.

Regardless of various worries, Haggag continues to be driven to concurrently develop her business enterprise whilst supporting her bordering neighborhood. She also has sights set on future growth. Outside of eyeing a achievable area in Downtown Las Vegas, she needs to share her vegan Egyptian cuisine outside of the restrictions of a cafe. “My father started out as a distributor for iron and then started production iron. Producing is in my genes!” Haggag exclaims. “I feel using the brand to the upcoming level is my major goal. With analysis and Google and people, we’re heading to make it happen.”

• All Coverage of Pots [ELV]

1725 S. Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89146

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